Madagascar has the internet, of course. But it is one of the poorest countries in the world, so many areas have little access to it. Living in England, I’ve been so used to checking photos, reviews and ratings before booking anything. It’s quite strange when all of that doesn’t exist, it feels like time traveling to 90’s holiday planning.
A lot of hotels and travel agents do have websites, but they are very basic. Can you remember what websites looked like before Facebook or AirBnB? Sort of like that. Forget slick flowing pages with all the key information at the front. Initially, it made me want to book somewhere else, until I realised that all the websites are like this, if they even have one. It dawned on me that I would have to trust my gut (ok, my guidebook) rather than pictures and customer reviews.
And yes, I tried going onto google maps and zooming into the areas where I would be staying. But I kept zooming and zooming into the correct spot, and weirdly no blue dot would appear where I could click and see photos of the area. Does a place exist if it’s not been Instagrammed 100 times? Absolutely, and it’s heaven. But you just have to believe it until you get there.
I chose the Bradt guidebook, as Hilary Bradt has travelled to Madagascar many times in the last 40 years, and there was a new edition in 2017. I was so glad to have it with me, I used it everywhere I went. It doesn’t just have loads of addresses to stay and things to do, it also has interesting information on the country’s history and culture. It quickly became more useful to me than google, and it was refreshing to be staring at a book rather than my phone. I even had to make… phone calls. I know! I had forgotten that a phone could do that. In most instances it was the only way to book anything, don’t go thinking anywhere will have online booking forms.
I loved the limited internet experience. Not knowing what to expect of the next place I was heading to, became exciting rather than frightening. I almost (almost) miss the surprise now when I book an Airbnb.